By Daniela Moreno & Robert Moroyoqui
After nearly 30 years of diligence and dedication to Pueblo High School, math teacher and ex-wrestling coach Mr. Steve Lopez joined the Valencia Middle School staff as an assistant principal.
Lopez’ love of teaching and education is due to the persuasive words of Mr. Richard Gastelum, who was Pueblo’s principal during this time. Gastelum also managed an ice cream shop where Lopez enjoyed his first after school job. Lopez heeded the advice from Gastelum—to pursue education as a career. After graduating from the University of Arizona, Lopez began his teaching career at Pueblo—and Gastelum was still principal. Both Lopez and Gastelum have remained “lifelong friends”.
Not only has Lopez taught math to several thousand students over the years, he also coached our wrestling team to many victorious seasons, which included a State champion team in 2008. (His son, Brandon Lopez, a senior at the time, was on this team.)
Mr. Manny Galvan, former English teacher and current permanent substitute-teacher, was Mr. Lopez’ assistant coach from 1993 until 2016, when Coach Lopez decided to resign and pass the torch on to Mr. Paul Vasquez (who attended Pueblo and was a wrestling State champion in 2004 and 2005).
“Mr. Lopez has worked very hard to become an assistant principal. I see this move as a first step in returning to Pueblo as a future administrator. Working with him as an assistant coach was a pleasure. He got his wrestlers to perform at their utmost potential.”
Vasquez said, “Coach Lopez is truly an awesome person and a great advocate for Pueblo High School. I just want to say to him ‘Thank you, Mr. Lopez, for all of the help that you have given me—even in college. I would get out of work at 9 at night, and you would still find time to tutor me regarding my college math courses—for free!’”
Lopez loves teaching, but he said that he would like to continue making a difference in his community. This is why he has decided to take the job as assistant principal at Valencia Middle School.
“I see myself working for another ten years and really make a difference in the lives of students and to enhance their quality of education,” said Lopez.
He does admit that teaching students has not been easy—especially the ones who don’t feel like learning.
“[This job has been] all worth it,” Lopez said.
He added, “Kids can sometimes resist us [teachers] to the death, but I like the challenge of making them say ‘I want to learn.’”
Lopez advises new teachers to be tenacious about this profession: “You [teachers are] probably never going to be rich, but teach because you love it.”
He admitted that leaving is not going to be easy for him, and confesses that he will really miss “everything” about Pueblo—specifically, students and staff.
“Pueblo is home. Pueblo is where I feel like I definitely belong, where I feel like I mattered,” Lopez said.
Many staff members expressed their goodbyes and wishes words for Mr. Lopez.
Ms. Jessica Bernal-Mejia, history teacher, said, “Steve [Lopez] was like my Pueblo tio, always picking on me, but I knew he had my back. I’m going to miss him, but I know that he is going to be a great principal.”
Principal Dr. Augustine Romero said, “We’re going to miss Mr. Lopez very much. He has been a huge inspiration to many, many students. At the same time, we’re very proud and happy for him regarding this opportunity to become an assistant principal.”
One of Lopez’ math colleagues, Ms. Paulette Livio, said, “I’m very excited that Mr. Lopez finally got the chance to become an administrator [at Valencia Middle School], but we’re very sad to lose him.”
Math teacher Mr. Billy Campbell said, “Mr. Lopez has been a mentor to me. He’s helped me to grow as a math teacher. I’ve learned from him what it truly means to be a teacher and a leader.” He paused and added, “Mr. Lopez is the kind of man who walks-the-walk and doesn’t just talk. When I occasionally feel down about myself, I tell myself, ‘I need to put my Steve [Lopez] hat on.’”Probably the person who will miss Mr. Lopez the most in the math department is his close friend and colleague, Ms. Martha Avila-Miranda. “I wish him [Lopez] all of the wisdom in his new position [as assistant principal]. It’s going to be really difficult getting used to not seeing him—he’s been here for nearly 30 years. However, he’s just a phone call away.”